1786, Jerusalem College Cambridge.
The ghost of Sylvia Whichcote is rumoured to be haunting Jerusalem since disturbed fellow-commoner Frank Oldershaw claims to have seen the dead woman prowling the grounds.
Desperate to salvage her son's reputation, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts - a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion - to investigate. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts an uneasy status quo as he glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the master, Dr Carbury, ever could.
And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted - not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also by Elinor, the very-much-alive master's wife - his fate is sealed. He must find Sylvia's murderer or the hauntings will continue. And not one of them will leave the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem unchanged.
The Anatomy of Ghosts
Late in the evening of Thursday, 16 February 1786, the Last Supper was nearing its end. The new Apostle had taken the oaths, signed the membership book and swallowed the contents of the sacred glass presented by the late Morton Frostwick, to the accompaniment of whoops, cheers and catcalls. Now it was time for the toasts that preceded the grand-climax of the ceremony.
'No heeltaps, gentlemen,' Jesus commanded from the head of the table. 'All rise. I give you His Majesty the King.'
The Apostles shuffled to their feet, many with difficulty. Four chairs fell over and someone knocked a bottle off the table.
Jesus raised his glass. 'The King, God bless him.'
'The King, God bless him,' bellowed a chorus of voices in return, for the Apostles prided themselves on their patriotism and their attachment to the throne. Each man drained his glass in one. 'God bless him!' repeated St Matthew at the far end of table, and his passionate exhortation ended in ...
Though Andrew Taylor's riveting novel is billed as a mystery infused with a ghost story, it is considerably more literary than it might appear. The plot concerns the investigation of a murder and a ghost, but all of the characters are haunted by something - regret, failed ambition - and it is around these "hauntings" that the story revolves. As John Holdsworth investigates the oddities of Sylvia Whichcote's death, it is clear that this novel is wrestling with larger issues: Is it possible to escape the pain of the past? And how do past disappointments blind you from seeing the truth of the present? These piquant questions have broad applications as each character struggles to determine what they should hide or reveal.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (1357 words).
In Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts, while recovering from his ordeal, Frank Oldershaw is first held at a home for the mentally disturbed. Although the process used to treat him there seems brutal and oppressive to modern sensibilities, for the time period it was considered quite advanced and progressive.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment, people in mental institutions were frequently subjected to horrendous conditions. Some inmates were chained to stone floors, to the walls of their cells, to the bars of a cage, or to heavy wooden trough bedsteads. This shackling was not always restricted to periods of maniacal excitement but could continue for years, sometimes for life. Chains, handcuffs...
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